One of the earliest Christian writers after the New Testament era was Clement of Alexandria, who lived from about 150 to 210 AD. While researching the concept of the “yoke of Christ” in Matthew 11:28-30, I noted that Clement makes a connection between the yoke and rites of initiation and other mysteries aimed at bringing us into the presence of God and becoming more like him.
Speaking to those caught up in pagan Greek mysteries, Clement of Alexandria in his Exhortations to the Heathen, a document believed to have been written around 195 AD), speaks of true mysteries that should replace heathen rites. He refers to the sacred rites, “expounding them after [the] fashion” of the Greeks, describing the Christian mysteries as “dramas of the truth” with a sober choral
dance.(Hugh Nibley in “The
Early Christian Prayer Circle” has noted the parallel between the Greek chorus/choral dance and the early Christian prayer circle.) Here is a
passage from Clement’s Exhortation, available at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library (ccel.org):
Come, O madman, not leaning on the thyrsus, not crowned with ivy; throw away the mitre, throw away the fawn-skin; come to thy senses. I will show thee the Word, and the mysteries of the Word, expounding them after thine own fashion. This is the mountain beloved of God, not the subject of tragedies like Cithæron, but consecrated to dramas of the truth,–a mount of sobriety, shaded with forests of purity; and there revel on it not the Mænades, the sisters of Semele, who was struck by the thunderbolt, practising in their initiatory rites unholy division of flesh, but the daughters of God, the fair lambs, who celebrate the holy rites of the Word, raising a sober choral dance. The righteous are the chorus; the music is a hymn of the King of the universe. The maidens strike the lyre, the angels praise, the prophets speak; the sound of music issues forth, they run and pursue the jubilant band; those that are called make haste, eagerly desiring to receive the Father.
Come thou also, O aged man, leaving Thebes, and casting away from thee both divination and Bacchic frenzy, allow thyself to be led to the truth. I give thee the staff [of the cross] on which to lean. Haste, Tiresias; believe, and thou wilt see. Christ, by whom the eyes of the blind recover sight, will shed on thee a light brighter than the sun; night will flee from thee, fire will fear, death will be gone; thou, old man, who saw not Thebes, shalt see the heavens. O truly sacred mysteries! O stainless light! My way is lighted with torches, and I survey the heavens and God; I become holy whilst I am initiated. The Lord is the hierophant [that which brings someone into the presence of the holy, like the keeper of the gate in 2 Nephi 9], and seals while illuminating him who is initiated, and presents to the Father him who believes, to be kept safe for ever. Such are the reveries of my mysteries. If it is thy wish, be thou also initiated; and thou shall join the choir along with angels around the unbegotten and indestructible and the only true God, the Word of God, raising the hymn with us. This Jesus, who is eternal, the one great High Priest of the one God, and of His Father, prays for and exhorts men.
“Hear, ye myriad tribes, rather whoever among men are endowed with reason, both barbarians and Greeks. I call on the whole race of men, whose Creator I am, by the will of the Father. Come to Me, that you may be put in your due rank under the one God and the one Word of God; and do not only have the advantage of the irrational creatures in the possession of reason; for to you of all mortals I grant the enjoyment of immortality. For I want, I want to impart to you this grace, bestowing on you the perfect boon of immortality; and I confer on you both the Word and the knowledge of God, My complete self. This am I, this God wills, this is symphony, this the harmony of the Father, this is the Son, this is Christ, this the Word of God, the arm of the Lord, the power of the universe, the will of the Father; of which things there were images of old, but not all adequate. I desire to restore you according to the original model, that ye may become also like Me. I anoint you with the ungent of faith, by which you throw off corruption, and show you the naked form of righteousness by which you ascend to God. Come to Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest to your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden light.”
Let us haste, let us run, my fellow-men—us, who are God-loving and God-like images of the Word. Let us haste, let us run, let us take His yoke, let us receive, to conduct us to immortality, the good charioteer of men. Let us love Christ. He led the colt with its parent; and having yoked the team of humanity to God, directs His chariot to immortality, hastening clearly to fulfil, by driving now into heaven, what He shadowed forth before by riding into Jerusalem. A spectacle most beautiful to the Father is the eternal Son crowned with victory. Let us aspire, then, after what is good; let us become God-loving men, and obtain the greatest of all things which are incapable of being harmed—God and life. Our helper is the Word; let us put confidence in Him; … There is therefore no room to doubt, the Word will say, whether it is better to be sane or insane; but holding on to truth with our teeth, we must with all our might follow God, and in the exercise of wisdom regard all things to be, as they are, His; and besides, having learned that we are the most excellent of His possessions, let us commit ourselves to God, loving the Lord God, and regarding this as our business all our life long. And if what belongs to friends be reckoned common property, and man be the friend of God—for through the mediation of the Word has he been made the friend of God—then accordingly all things become man’s, because all things are God’s, and the common property of both the friends, God and man.
It is time, then, for us to say that the pious Christian alone is rich and wise, and of noble birth, and thus call and believe him to be God’s image, and also His likeness, having become righteous and holy and wise by Jesus Christ, and so far already like God. Accordingly this grace is indicated by the prophet, when he says, “I said that ye are gods, and all sons of the Highest.” For us, yea us, He has adopted, and wishes to be called the Father of us alone, not of the unbelieving. Such is then our position who are the attendants of Christ.
There is much in Clement that resonates with LDS concepts. Many things to discuss later.
In LDS doctrine, the divine potential of mankind is linked to out divine heritage. We don’t think Paul was obfuscating when he approved of the Greek poet who wrote, “We are also his offspring” (Acts 17:28). We take him seriously when he said God is our Father, even the “Father of Spirits” (Heb. 12:9-10). And we see a link between our heritage as children of God and our divine potential in what Paul taught in Romans 8:
14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
But some have argued that since Paul speaks of adoption, it means that we aren’t actual, literal children of God, but rather that we are an entirely different species. Only Christ is “begotten” or descended from God, and the rest of us are entirely distinct and in need of being adopted. [Here I delete my errant discussion based on misreading an unclear part of the text, where I thought it said “was adopted” instead of “has adopted.” Oops!]
But perhaps Clement of Alexandria helps us overcome that barrier to recognizing our divine inheritance, for he teaches in the last paragraph quoted above that Christ in His role as Son of God also was “adopted.” Adopted for us to bring us back to God.
My guess is that the concept of adoption in this context means putting off the natural man and fully accepting God, thus being accepted of God, that we may enter into God’s presence in a covenant relationship to receive His kingdom and all that He has. We are sons and daughters of God, with the potential to become true Sons and Daughters of God in His kingdom, joint heirs with Christ. Heavy material, certainly, but worth thinking about.
I’d like to know more about the mysteries that Clement knew.
39 thoughts on “Clement of Alexandria, Temple Mysteries, and the Divine Potential of Man”
Clement doesn't say Christ was adopted. He says that God HAS adopted those who are attendants of Christ and wants to be Father of us alone. I think you are misreading this last paragraph.
The "ungent of faith" Clement is talking about is not a real anointing with oil. Faith is being spoken of as a metaphorical anointing. 1 John talks about anointing in this similar way, "receiving an anointing of the Holy One." The gift of the Holy Ghost is the anointing. Not the Mormon version of the Gift of the Holy Ghost, but the Biblical version, which is the the moment when the person believes, and is therefore promised salvation with the "earnest" or "guarantee" of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians). Clement is talking about faith as a righteousness. The same thing Paul does. Faith is righteousness. God's righteousness. Not man's righteousness, which is law.
The mysteries Clement is talking about is the Word/God/Christ being made flesh, and thus bringing salvation to all people, Jews and Gentiles alike. This is what Paul speaks of when he talks about mysteries. And this seems to be what Clement is referencing here…"the mysteries of the Word."
Clement here is riffing on the Bible. Using Biblical analogies, Biblical doctrines, etc. He is not bearing his testimony of temple ordinances.
Oops! Everything, I owe you lunch or something for catching that error so quickly. Many thanks! Very sloppy misreading on my part. That's the problem with squeezing posts in on the fly while traveling. I am interested in exploring the issue of adoption and its implications in early Christian thought. Insights are welcome.
Great article Jeff. One of my favorite passages about divine potential of man is in Psalm 8. There is an unfortunate translation of Elohim as "angels" in the KJV that obscures the meaning of that passage.
Paul also quotes those verses a little earlier in Hebrews 2.
I actually just put up a blog post on it myself found here http://www.scripturalalchemy.com/2015/06/what-is-man.html
In a certain sense, God sis adopt us at some point in LDS cosmology. I mean, given that we believe that "man was also in the beginning with God" because "intelligence, or the light of truth" was not and cannot be created, there was a part of us that was pre-existent and not created by God, so whatever it means to be begotten as spirits by God, God did not give birth to that pre-existing intelligence, so in a sense, were were adopted by God when we were begotten as his spirit children. Similar to the way that we are God's spirit children, but are in a sense adopted by our parents when we are physically born to earthly parents.
In a nutshell, unless you accept the idea that God creates souls ex nihilo, which LDS theology rejects, there has to be some kind of adoption going on at some level.
Right, but this wouldn't be the adoption Paul is speaking of in the Bible.
But consider the implications of what you just said. We are eternal. If I am eternal and you are eternal, I can't be the source of your existence and you cannot be the source of my existence. Something apart from both of us has to sustain both of us. In Christian theology, that "something" is God. And God is not sustained by anything apart from himself. He is truly the only independent entity. Thus, he can truly be the source of all things.
In Mormon theology, though, I am eternal, you are eternal, God is eternal. But God is the source of your life and my life, but not his own. Something else has to be the source of God's life.
Anselm of Canterbury would say that that "something else" then has to be God. Because God is the greatest thing we can possibly imagine. And if we can imagine anything greater than God, than God isn't really God, and that greater thing has to be God.
Mormonism has no ultimate authority in the universe. There are only an infinite number of lesser authorities.
God is clearly the ultimate authority. Whether some part of me — whether the matter, a wisp of intelligence, or perhaps a random number that characterizes me in some way — existed before I was given life by God does not take away His authority. All things in the eternities give him humble reverence. He is the Creator and Lord of all.
@everythingbeforeus using an 11th century logic to poke holes in Mormon theology isn't all that useful. Our expanded understanding of time and space for example in relation to black hole singularities show that much more is possible than can be conceived in logic parlor games.
Mormons assert God to be without beginning of days or end of years, whose course is one eternal round. We assert he has all power and has created worlds without number. If our doctrines concerning eternal progression, or what might happen if you could hie to Kolob, seem incompatible with that doctrine in man's reasoning, then we also assert his ways are not our ways, as the heavens are higher than the earth so are his ways higher than ours. In other words, it doesn't have to make sense to our finite minds and you can't define what others believe with statements like "Mormonism has no ultimate authority" simply because you cannot put the puzzle pieces together.
If God doesn't need to make sense, then I can tell you whatever I want about God. All I need to do is convince you I am a prophet. Once I have done that, God can be anything, and you'll believe it.
I was hoping my words would resonate with you. I was intentionally paraphrasing an article I read the day before
"Does it make sense? No. Should we expect God to make sense to us?"
I liked this quote of yours and thought it was the best defense of Trinitarian concepts there was. I am fine with your disagreeing with the doctrine. That is a matter of personal view just as I disagree with Trinitarianism. I just don't like people defining for me what it is I believe based on logic that reaches a conclusion that the author knows Latter-Day Saints do not support.
But best of luck on your spiritual journey.
Just curious, Jeff — do you believe that God was once a man like us?
Clever what you did there, Gilgamesh.
I am not denying that there will be "mystery" in God. And perhaps I am coming down too hard on the Mormon conception of God when Trinitarianism doesn't make sense, either. But there is a difference. I have sat through far too many Sunday School classes in which Trinitarianism has been misrepresented and mocked by the participants in the class as being something that just doesn't make sense at all! Joseph Smith even mocked it. The implication being that the Mormon conception of God makes perfect sense.
But it doesn't. Too me it makes a heck of a lot less sense. There is a huge difference between the kind of mystery that is Trinitarianism, and the kind of mystery that is the Mormon God. Trinitarianism doesn't make sense, but it does so in a logically complete way. One God, three persons. This one God is the first and the last, the everlasting to everlasting. He is everything he is described as in the Bible. The Bible can be taken literally in this respect. When God says he knows no other Gods other than himself, the declaration is complete and requires no qualifier. But for Mormonism to work, it requires a qualifier. "I know no other Gods besides myself…as far as this world is concerned…" But Mormonism has to add that qualifier to make the scripture fit the doctrine. Talk about philosophies of men mingled with scripture!
See what I mean? Think of it this way. The Bible God is a complete house. We can look at it from the outside and see that all the part are in place and are finished. We just aren't inside yet to really see what the house looks like in a more intimate way. That is the mystery.
The Mormon God at first glance seems much bigger and grander. There are a few additional wings, a garage, a patio. But upon closer inspection, we find that the wings, patio, and garage are only partially complete. The additions on this second house that aren't on the first house are missing huge chunks that would make the house complete and satisfying like the first. The mystery is still in both houses, but what we can see from the outside of the first house is complete. The second one is not.
The God of the Bible is a mystery, but we see enough of him to realize that we have a complete picture of his nature. The God of Mormonism presents far more questions than answers. And I do not think these questions are inspired by the mystery of God, but are the result of a rather tossed-together theology by a man who did exactly what Paul said men would do, namely create a God in the image of corruptible man.
I wouldn't mind more information about God, but that additional information cannot overturn the information God has already given us. But Joseph Smith tells us straight out that he is refuting that which we've always presumed about God. He said that we have imagined a God who is everlasting to everlasting (well…the Bible tells us so…and the Book of Mormon too for that matter) but he "will refute" that notion.
We clearly disagree, but I am sorry for speaking in manner that is not respectful of your beliefs. That message above…it is what I believe. But you believe as you do, and you have your reasons, and I have not been as respectful as I would've liked.
No offense taken by me at all. In the end I care much more how a man serves God than how he defines him. Peace to you.
When God says he knows no other Gods other than himself, the declaration is complete and requires no qualifier.
This is either a very disingenuous statement, or you are not fully aware of other verses that scholars find contradictory to your statement. In some of my studies of the Hebrew scriptures, I have seen references to God acknowledging other deities (I'm not talking about exalted beings), but He considered himself to be the greatest of these deities, and Israel was to only worship him as their God. This is called Henotheism and is reflected in Israel's constant dabbling in idols and other gods. That is why the word "jealous" is used in reference to these other deities, why Pharoah's dudes can turn a staff into serpent too, and so on. One can even look at the plural found in Genesis: "Let us make man in our own image" and interpret it any number of ways. Many point to the changing attitudes, cultures, and writers of the Hebrew scriptures as an explanation for things like this.
I am sorry that I can't get more specific at the moment, but the Bible and the evolving Hebrew culture is not always going to give you the slam-dunk that you are looking for, especially when you add any number of people's interpretations on what it means.
Which is why I think you go a bit too far in saying that that we have some sort of solid information about how God exists based solely on isolated passages of scripture, and that Joseph's doctrine cannot coincide with the Biblical Yahweh or Jesus.
Do I necessarily believe everything said by scholarship? No. I believe in a prophet like Joseph who gave us a legitimate baseline based on revelation rather than sole interpretation.
First, I never meant to say that this was what Paul is talking about–only that it doesn't make much sense to set up the idea of adoption as being somehow less respectful to the idea that humankind is in some sense divine than the Mormon idea of humankind being children of God, because even in Mormonism you still have something like adoption going on, it's just pushed back another level of regression.
I think you are putting a little too much emphasis on Joseph Simth's later, non-canonical teachings (as filtered through Brigham Young's Adam-God doctrines, and then through later church authorities) in defining "Mormonism." To be sure, you wouldn't be the only one!
But I think in figuring out what "Mormonism" says about the Trinity and the nature of God, it is best to rely primarily on canonized scripture. Personally, I think many later church leaders have been a bit too cavalier in looking superficially at some of Joseph Smith's reported later teachings (King Follet, etc.) and even more superficially at canonized scripture (especially the Book of Mormon) in figuring out what we believe about the Trinity. I also think it is a mistake to speak of "Mormon theology" as a monolith.
"In Mormon theology, though, I am eternal, you are eternal, God is eternal. But God is the source of your life and my life, but not his own. Something else has to be the source of God's life." That is one version of Mormon theology, but I don't believe it is the only version. I certainly don't believe that it is the only version consistent with the Book of Mormon, which I take to be the most important source in defining what Mormonism actually has to say. I also don't believe that it is binding upon members of the church to accept that version. It would be just as consistent with Mormon doctrine to say: God (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost) is eternal, some part of the soul of man is also eternal, but what part that really is, we don't fully understand. In any event, man was begotten by God and made his child and is sustained by God.
I also should say, that I completely agree with you that we Mormons have done a terrible job understanding the doctrine of the Trinity. Usually, we think we are attacking the mocking the idea of the Trinity when in reality what we are describing is not the doctrine of the Trinity at all, but the heresy of modalism. The way I see it, there is very little difference between the doctrine of the Trinity, properly understood, as defined in the early creeds (we're talking Apostles, Nicean and Athanasiun, not the later stuff like the Westminster Confession) and the LDS doctrine of the Godhead. The only real difference, as far as I can tell, is consubstantiality, and even that, I'm not so sure is totally irreconcilable. (For example, to the extent that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are of "one substance" in the same way or a similar way that Jesus is of one substance with humanity because he took on himself human nature, I don't think that to be at all irreconcilable with LDS doctrine on the Godhead.) In any case, the difference is far less than too many Mormons assume. I attribute this not to any nefarious intent, but to well-intentioned ignorance, which is just one of the side effects of having a largely lay ministry without theological education.
It is not well-intentioned ignorance, JKC, the has led to Mormon misunderstanding of Christian creeds. It is the dialogue that violently and rudely consigned all of Christianity to Hell and the Devil which was ingrained into Mormonism from its inception.
"What is it that inspires professors of Christianity generally with a hope of salvation? It is that smooth, sophisticated influence of the devil, by which he deceives the whole world"
– Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 270
"Brother Taylor has just said that the religions of the day were hatched in hell. The eggs were laid in hell, hatched on its borders, and then kicked on to the earth."
– Prophet Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, v. 6, p. 176
"Christians—those poor, miserable priests brother Brigham was speaking about—some of them are the biggest whoremasters there are on the earth, and at the same time preaching righteousness to the children of men. The poor devils, they could not get up here and preach an oral discourse, to save themselves from hell; they are preaching their fathers' sermons —preaching sermons that were written a hundred years before they were born. …You may get a Methodist priest to pour water on you, or sprinkle it on you, and baptize you face foremost, or lay you down the other way, and whatever mode you please, and you will be damned with your priest.
– Apostle Heber C. Kimball, Journal of Discourses, v. 5, p. 89
"Christianity…is a perfect pack of nonsense…the devil could not invent a better engine to spread his work than the Christianity of the nineteenth century."
– Prophet John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, v. 6, p. 167
"Both Catholics and Protestants are nothing less than the ‘whore of Babylon' whom the Lord denounces by the mouth of John the Revelator as having corrupted all the earth by their fornications and wickedness. Any person who shall be so corrupt as to receive a holy ordinance of the Gospel from the ministers of any of these apostate churches will be sent down to hell with them, unless they repent."
– Apostle Orson Pratt, The Seer, p. 255
“… all the millions of apostate Christendom have abased themselves before the mythical throne of a mythical Christ…. in large part the worship of apostate Christendom is performed in ignorance, as much so as was the worship of the Athenians who bowed the Unknown Gods.”
– Apostle Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, pp. 269, 374-375
I think you are putting a little too much emphasis on Joseph Smith's later, non-canonical teachings (as filtered through Brigham Young's Adam-God doctrines….) But I think in figuring out what "Mormonism" says about the Trinity and the nature of God, it is best to rely primarily on canonized scripture. Personally, I think many later church leaders have been a bit too cavalier in looking superficially at some of Joseph Smith's reported later teachings….
If I understand you rightly, JKC, you're implicitly admitting that the various prophets have repeatedly led believers astray.
But I thought that was one thing they could never, ever do. As Wilford Woodruff put it, "The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place."
If Joseph Smith and Brigham Young were genuine prophets, it is odd that we now find ourselves struggling to figure out which of their doctrinal statements are true and which are false.
It's hard to imagine having this sort of a problem with, say, Abraham or Jesus, or even Ezekiel or Isaiah.
Feel free to argue that JS and BY's more, um, colorful teachings have no bearing on Mormon theology. Just remember that these teachings very definitely have a bearing on these men's characters. They were men who cavalierly passed falsehoods off as truth.
FWIW I fully accept King Follett doctrine, evengeance if it hasn't made its way into the cannon. I don't have any trouble believing that people in Book of Mormon as well as in the Bible may not have had this type of knowledge yet, and that we have a tiny glimpse of it.
As for the claim that Clement of Alexandria was just "riffing" on the Bible and was not referring to any unpublished mysteries such as sacred temple concepts, I think it would be helpful to read a little more of Clement. He does in fact make references to sacred knowledge in unwritten form passed on from the apostles. E.g., In Stromata, Book 6, end of chapters 7 and 8, you can find some interesting material as he discusses this higher knowledge, or gnosis. E.g.,
"And the gnosis itself is that which has descended by transmission to a few, having been imparted unwritten by the apostles."
Chapter 15 also affirms that there was unwritten knowledge given by Christ to the apostles. I think this may be related to the traditions around the 40-day ministry of Christ where he obviously taught a great deal that is also clearly not recorded.
A number of other early Christians spoke of similar things, including teachings and rites (e.g., chrism) that were not published or at least are not clearly presented in the Bible.
Orbiting, I believe Christ came to earth as a man, somewhat similar to us. He said He did nothing except what He has seen the Father do (John 5:19). Since Christ is God also (one of the Godhead, to be specific) and is one with the Father, I find it possible to accept that God/Christ once experienced mortality and then resurrection. But what that actually might mean for the Father I do not know, so I will leave that for later. But of course I do not have any reason to believe that God was once a fallen, sinful human like me. I have good scriptural reasons to reject such a notion. God and Christ represent perfection, ultimate authority, creation, sinlessness, and the source of all glory. That they share it with fallen man through the power of the Atonement is a marvel and a wonder, leaving us no cause to boast, even if made joint heirs with Christ. We will always bow in humble reverence before them, especially after being admitted into their presence and allowed to partake of their joy more fully.
Everything, those overly colorful quotes certainly don't reflect the goodwill the Church has shown for our fellow Christians and for the rest of Christianity. In the days of Christian mobs versus the Church, it was easy to have an us-versus-them mentality in some of the statements made about our "competitors" and furious foes, but that's not an accurate representation of the actual practice. The kindness shown the Catholic Church in Utah when they came to St. George and Salt Lake City may be more representative, along with some positive statements about the old Catholic religion from Joseph himself. But yes, we have from the beginning insisted that there has been a serious apostasy and a great need for the Restoration. But to say we consign the rest of Christianity to hell is way out of touch with our views. I think you'll find much more respectful and measured statements in the past 50 years.
Jeff said: "what that actually might mean for the Father I do not know, so I will leave that for later"
"those overly colorful quotes certainly don't reflect the goodwill the Church…is way out of touch with our views"
I used to frequent this blog quite often in the hope of finding intelligent dialogue concerning the LDS faith. But the only thing Jeff has repeatedly demonstrated is a blatant equivocal argument of the teachings/statements of LDS PROPHETS and APOSTLES.
Jeff is always ready to build a case or impart knowledge based off various teachings and writings of LDS PROPHETS and APOSTLES as if their words carry some sense of authority. He'll even go so far as quoting non-LDS "TRUE mysteries" of Clement of Alexandria in support of LDS theology. But when those same LDS PROPHETS and APOSTLES are quoted with anything he either disagrees with, is culturally offensive or unqualifiedly strange he simply dismisses their words as "out of touch" and encourages readers to move on.
Nowhere else do I witness such constant disingenuous and equivocal apologetics than those used to defend the LDS faith.
Jeff, I'm curious, are you sincerely unaware or purposely deceitful?
Fig, the actual practices and teachings of the Church do not condemn other Christians to hell and express a great deal of toleration for other faiths. That's built into the Articles of Faith. Yes, there were some harsh words at times, especially when motivated by the hypocrisy of Christians who persecuted early Mormons for their faith. But in spite of some angry rhetoric in the early days, and in spite of believing that the need for the Restoration has been a widespread loss of original Christian truth and authority, the Church since then has cooperated with other faiths and shown a lot of goodwill.
I'm sorry for whatever anger drives you, but anger towards other religions is not what drives us. What the Church actually teaches us is more like this recent statement:
"A respect for the diverse beliefs and unique contributions of all the world’s faiths is one of the hallmarks of Mormonism. From the earliest days of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Joseph Smith elevated the principle of religious liberty and tolerance: “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may” (Articles of Faith 1:11).
In that same spirit, Church President Thomas S. Monson made a plea during general conference, a semiannual worldwide meeting, for more religious understanding: “I would encourage members of the Church wherever they may be to show kindness and respect for all people everywhere. The world in which we live is filled with diversity. We can and should demonstrate respect toward those whose beliefs differ from ours.” Latter-day Saints accept all sincere believers as equals in the pursuit of faith and in the great work of serving humanity.
"Emphasizing God’s love for all people, not just those of one religion, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency, the highest governing body of the Church, declared: 'We honor and respect sincere souls from all religions, no matter where or when they lived, who have loved God, even without having the fullness of the gospel. We lift our voices in gratitude for their selflessness and courage. We embrace them as brothers and sisters, children of our Heavenly Father. … He hears the prayers of the humble and sincere of every nation, tongue, and people. He grants light to those who seek and honor Him and are willing to obey His commandments.'"
The Church today interacts and cooperates with many other faiths in supporting humanitarian and other projects. That includes Protestant faiths, Catholicism, Judaism, and Islam.
The meetings I've attended, the discussions I've heard, the teachings I've received over my life have generally encouraged respect for other faiths, not anger or hatred, though yes, we have some strong doctrinal differences and concerns.
The history of the Church's interactions with the Roman Catholic faith in Utah is on the whole an example of tolerance worthy of note. A brief review is offered at the Deseret News in "Mormon-Catholic tolerance goes back to Brigham Young". The story begins with a reference to President Thomas S. Monson and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir participating in the centennial celebrations for Salt Lake City's Catholic Cathedral of the Madeleine. Our very presence there is a sign of goodwill for other faiths. A large excerpt follows:
"There is a story here that few Catholics and Latter-day Saints know.By the late 1860s, Mormon isolation in Utah was ending. Jewish merchants and businessmen arrived, for instance, as early as 1854. Strong Jewish-Mormon friendships grew, and Brigham Young more than once opened Mormon church buildings to Jewish religious services. In their turn, Catholics first came to Utah in 1862, as members of the California Volunteers. In 1866, when Father Edward Kelly sought a place to celebrate Mass, Mormon leaders permitted him to use the old tabernacle on today's Temple Square, and Brigham Young helped him to obtain clear title to land for the first Catholic church in the city. On May 10, 1869, the Union and Central Pacific Railroads met at Promontory Summit…. Though Catholics and Latter-day Saints differed theologically, they were generally friendly with one another. Thus, for example, not long after then-Father Scanlan arrived in Utah in 1873, he was invited by Mormon leaders in St. George, Utah, to use their tabernacle for worship. However, he feared that some of the liturgy would need to be omitted since it called for a choir singing in Latin. But he was soon surprised to discover that the director of the St. George Tabernacle's choir had ordered the appropriate music and was preparing his group to perform it, in Latin, in two weeks. Accordingly, on May 18,1873 a Catholic high Mass was sung by a Mormon choir in the St. George Tabernacle. Plainly, although none can deny some harsh rhetoric over the years, Mormon respect for Catholics long predates the 2009 centennial of the Cathedral of the Madeleine. In fact, it dates to the days of Joseph Smith himself. Referring to the mob burning of the Ursuline Convent near Boston in 1834, Joseph remarked:"The early settlers of Boston . . . who had fled from their mother country to avoid persecution and death, soon became so lost to principles of justice and religious liberty as to whip and hang the Baptist and the Quaker, who, like themselves, had fled from tyranny to a land of freedom; and the Fathers of Salem, from 1691 to 1693, whipped, imprisoned, tortured, and hung many of their citizens for supposed witchcraft; and quite recently, while boasting of her light and knowledge, of her laws and religion, as surpassed by none on earth, has New England been guilty of burning a Catholic convent in the vicinity of Charlestown, and of scattering the inmates to the four winds; yes, in sight of the very spot where the fire of the American Independence was first kindled, where a monument is now erecting in memory of the battle of Bunker Hill, and the fate of the immortal Warren, who bled, who died on those sacred heights, to purchase religious liberty for his country; in sight of this very spot, have the religionists of the nineteenth century demolished a noble brick edifice, hurling its inhabitants forth upon a cold, unfeeling world for protection and subsistence.""The old Catholic church traditions are worth more than all you have said," Joseph told his followers in a sermon delivered less than two weeks before he himself was murdered by a mob. A strong foundation for friendship and respect toward Catholics was laid down in the earliest years of Mormonism."
Thanks for that Deseret News article Jeff. I have family that are Catholic that will be visiting me in Utah soon and that was a very helpful thing to share.
Jeff, reading your reply I see two typical responses.
The first, blaming others for the ugly Mormon behavior
"Yes, there were some harsh words at times, especially when motivated by the hypocrisy of Christians who persecuted early Mormons for their faith"
Read it again, those quotes are not reaction to persecution, they're teachings of apostles and prophets (men supposedly lead by the Spirit of God) that non-LDS Christians are damned.
The second thing you did was ignore my point that some apostle/prophet's words count and some do not. EVEN NOW in your reply you pick and choose what sounds good, using their words as authority to support your argument and positions while at the same time throwing out their words as meaningless nonsense of "out of touch" men
Did someone say " hypocrisy"?
It's also interesting that because I bring up this typical practice "these words count but these do not" I'm quickly labeled as driven by anger
I am not sure what answer would satisfy you. Prophets use different rhetoric for different audiences and circumstances. We are all happy that you are not angry. I am not sure why Jeff or any other Mormon needs to answer for anyone else's statements but his own. He has asked you to look at larger context and more recent history and provided good support for that. I don't think anyone is trying to walk back statements that Catholic ordinances do not lead to salvation just as I don't think Catholics are ready to endorse LDS ordinances. But that doesn't mean we can't start talking more kindly about it and treating each other nicely while still condemning each other to hell on the side. Some of my best friends are dead certain I will burn in flames forever. I think this just strengthens the resolve to enjoy one another's company in this life. Peace to you.
To me the problem with the rhetoric cited by Fig is not just that it's ugly, but that it's bombastic, and that it springs from a sense of absolute certainty in one's own rightness and evinces not a shred of humility. And let's not forget that it had deadly consequences (e.g., when it helped motivate the Mountain Meadows Massacre).
Jeff is right that Mormon leaders no longer talk this way. It's a good thing.
You're absolutely right, OK. It's very troubling to that these "men of God" had such things to say. But I guess there's a lot of LDS church history we're not supposed to think about.
And while agree with you and Jeff that LDS leaders no longer talk this way, it's still a problem when these past prophets and apostles are quoted as authoritive only when we agree with them.
And I'm not expecting them to be infallible, we're all human. But the things these church leaders said was without apology or remorse . They knew exactly what they were saying and it was done in the context of teaching as apostles and prophets, they're all at least published as such.
My question is when exactly do we decide what they say is truth and what is garbage and is there ANY, ANY accountability for what comes out of their mouths? Does character matter?
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Good for you Orbiting Kolob. Your wisdom and eloquent discourse never ceases to amaze.
Flying Fig, for whatever reason Jeff ignores certain commenters. Your comments are just as good and valid as the two whom Jeff allows to pontificate nonsense.
I have asked many sincere questions, because I thought Jeff was knowledgeable, and was ignored. Except one question…. my question was not disrespectful at all. It was sincere and he was none too nice in his reply. It was sonething with which I am very knowledgeable. And my question / comment was nothing like Out of Orbit and nothing before us say on a continuous basis.
Those two, and there are others, who continuously arrogate their demonic comments ( and motives) which they know nothing about, yet are not deleted or reprimanded while others get deleted.
Outer Space and everythingnotthere control the narrative, are rude to others and yet are allowed to continue with their acidic comments and show lack of class.
Hopefully in the next life they will be made to lick the boots of those they now denigrate.
Hi…nothingbeforeus speaking. Thanks for the new moniker. It is quite appropriate, I guess, considering my real name, "everything before us" comes from the opening lines of A Tale of Two Cities, "…we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…" So very good Anonymous. You've either done your reading, or you are simply going with the obvious an attempt to mock me.
But of course character matters. Each leader and each of us will be held accountable for what they do and who they have become. Being a leader does not remove the possibility of serious sin and major errors of judgment. Harshly judging such men for their words is the greatest expertise of man and you can find things to accuse almost anyone of having character flaws. But we do not allow every statement of every man who becomes a leader in the Church to be something binding and authoritative. We don't have to justify angry statements–they aren't what we teach or who we are.
The teachings of the apostles and prophets about non-LDS people is not that they are damned. In fact, no other Church opens up the gates of mercy so wide as we do, offering the full blessings of the Gospel even to those who never heard a word of it. We respect the good people of the earth from all faiths, and look forward to being with them in the next life. We hope all will eventually learn of and accept Christ, of course.
Jeff, I'm not demanding perfection from imperfect humans, but do you draw a distinction between one who admits an error and one who stands by their deed? It seems to me you ignore this aspect when it comes to LDS apostles and prophets.
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The only option is to believe all utterances are from God. As Elder Nelson recently stated (Oct.2014), the prophet's counsel is "untainted, unvarnished, unmotivated by any personal aspiration, and utterly true!"
If you would like to complain about topics unrelated to this post, I recommend getting your own blog.